Led by Halifax Mooseheads' Nathan Mackinnon and Portland Winterhawks' Seth Jones, the 2013 draft class has the makings of a bumper crop of talent.
Yahoo! has collabarated with scouts from NHL's Central Scouting Service, , International Scouting Services and Mckeen's Hockey to put together a top-10 rankings list for the 213 draft. Although players' draft stocks will undoubtedly change throughout the upcoming season, this is a consensus of whom BTN's learned obsevers believe are at the top of their draft class as it stands.
Without further ado, here is a look at BTN's taste of the 2013 draft.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, centre, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) — Will MacKinnon be the next Sidney Crosby? A lot of fans are hoping so. Is it realistic, though? Not really taking into account Crosby scored 57 more points than Mackinnon did in his rookie season in the Q. That being said, Nathan Mackinnon isn't poised to the be next "fill in the blank", rather he is poised to be the first Nathan MacKinnon, a player with the potential to be a future NHL superstar.
MacKinnon, as expected, dropped his fair share of jaws in his rookie season with the Mooseheads. The 5-foot-11, 179-pound centre lit the lamp 31 times and added 47 helpers throughout 58 games. He had an even more impressive post-season, notching 13 goals and 28 points in 17 games to lead the Mooseheads to within two victories of the Quebec League final.
MacKinnon isn't a sure thing to go first overall in 2013. Portland Winterhawks blueliner Seth Jones is hot on his trail to have his name called first. Nonetheless, as it stands, scouts believe the Cole Harbour, N.S., native leads the way of 2013 draft prospects.
Scout's take: "Nathan is a great skater with overall exceptional skills (good playmaking ability and hands, good vision and a great shot)," says Michael Charron of the NHL's Central Scouting Service. "He is very competitive, can play physical when he needs to be, and will skate into traffic to jump on a loose puck or to find his way to the net for a scoring chance. He is a very talented player and once he gets even stronger and gets to utilize his teammates even more in his second season in Halifax. He will be a very hard player to play against."
Seth Jones (Getty Images)2. Seth Jones, defence, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) — Jones has the makings of the next cornerstone defenceman. He has it all — a 6-foot-3, 201-pound frame, impeccable offensive upside, and incredible defensive instincts. The sky seems to be the limit for him.
The reasons listed above are why Winterhawks fans threw a party when the news broke that Jones chose the major junior route over playing for North Dakota in the NCAA. The addition of Jones gave them hope that they could make another run at the MasterCard Memorial Cup despite losing the likes of Sven Bartschi, Joe Morrow, and Brad Ross to the pros.
The 17-year-old, who is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, spent last year with the U.S. National Development Team, posting eight goals and 31 points in 52 games. Although it's a well-established program, the jump to the WHL will be a big one for Jones. He will have to adapt to bigger, stronger, and more skilled opponents in the Dub.
Scout's take: "Seth Jones is destined to be a solid professional player," says Dennis MacInnis, director of scouting for ISS. "Seth is a thoroughbred. He's a slick-skating, monster-sized defender who can do it all and can do it all better than almost everyone else. He moves so fluidly for his size you would think he was born on skates. His conditioning is excellent and his athletic ability is extremely impressive. His poise with puck is off the charts. He has great strength and can fight off anyone with the puck."
3. Sean Monahan, centre, Ottawa 67's (OHL) — The Barberpoles are poised to produce back-to-back first-round NHL draft picks. Monahan is expected to be a higher draft choice than teammate Cody Ceci, which is no mean feat onsidering the latter went 15th overall to the Ottawa Senators.
Monahan broke out in his second season with the 67's, scoring 33 goals and 78 points in 62 games. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound centre proved to be a very consistent scorer for Ottawa. His longest pointless streak was four games, which only happened once.
Scouts have been drooling over Monahan's hockey sense. Some have went to the extent of comparing his incredible talent to that of Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathon Toews. Monahan was one of two draft-year players to lace up for Team Canada during last week's Canada-Russia Challenge.
Scout's take: "Few players possess the out-ight determination that Monahan displays," says David Burstyn, director of scouting for McKeen's Hockey. "Monahan hates to lose and his sheer ability to pick up his game in clutch situations has been a trademark for the Mississauga native. Monahan already has two gold medals, World U-17 Challenge and Ivan Hlinka in which he played a pivotal role in Team Canada's success. What makes him so special is his ability to make others around him better. His hockey sense in the offensive zone is uncanny as he is extremely effective skating off the half boards and making a play. Combined with his lethal snapshot, he is a threat both as a shooter and a play maker."
Medicine Hat Tigers left wing Hunter Shinkaruk4. Hunter Shinkaruk, wing, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) — Shinkaruk and Anaheim Ducks prospect Emerson Etem were one of the top 1-2 scoring punches in the Dub last year. The duo was practically impossible to contain; Shinkaruk netted 49 goals and 91 goals as a 17-year-old; Etem posted 61 goals and 107 points as a 19-year-old.
The only knock on Shinkaruk is that his stats may have been slightly inflated last year because he was playing with Etem, arguably the best player in the WHL. Although a valid argument, it's clear through watching Shinkaruk fly past blueliners and dazzle goaltenders that he possesses top-tier talent that is a diamond in the rough.
Next year Shinkaruk will be able to silence his naysayers because Etem, who is poised to move on to the pros, will no longer be by his side. Being a single goal shy of 50 last year, that's a number many are taking for granted Shinkaruk will hit in his third season with the Tigers. A 100-point season would look good on his resume as well.
Scout's take: "Having tracked his development from the bantam age group, I have not come across someone who is more committed and passionate about improving and the game itself," says Ross MacLean, head scout for ISS. "He has tremendous instincts, competes well over 100 percent, and is a reliable and consistent offensive presence. He creates a ton of space in the perimeter and always finds creative ways to get the puck to the net. He has the work ethic and passion to be a star, a leader, and a role model."
5. Aleksander Barkov, centre, Tappara (SM-liiga) — Outside of North America, Barkov is the guy everyone is talking about. Some scouts have even gone on record to say he resembles Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk.
Barkov, who only makes the birthdate cutoff for the draft by 13 days, suited up for Finland at the past U-20 world junior championship in Alberta. Despite being only 16, he didn't look out of place at all, notching a goal and four points in seven games.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound centre will return for a second season in Tappara to play in the Finish Elite League next year. Since he is already playing in a pro-men's league, Barkov appears to be one of the most NHL-ready players available in next year's draft.
Scout's take: "After a line of undersized and over skilled Finnish forwards, Barkov bucks the trend," says MacLean, alluding to recent Finnish NHL first-round picks such as Mikael Granlund (Minnesota Wild, ninth overall, 2010) and Teuvo Teravainen (Chicago Blackhawks, 18th overall, 2012). "He's still got a ton of skill, but he also has the size that eases scouts' minds. He is extremely strong on the puck, handles the puck effectively in tight spaces, and understands where to be to make things happen on either side of the puck. He has a great shot, protects the puck well, and creates offense off the rush and during zone play. Projects best as a possession playmaker, but has also showed well in special teams and defensive situations."
Edmonton Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar (The Canadian Press)6. Curtis Lazar, centre, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) — Lazar can do it all. He can centre a penalty kill, anchor a power play and will probably even fill up the water bottles before practice. He's a type of player teammates love to have next to them and coaches love to have in their artillery.
After posting 20 goals and 31 points throughout 63 regular-season games, Lazar exploded into a star when it really counted. He scored eight goals and 19 points in 20 playoff games, proving to be a major reason why the Oil Kings hoisted the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
If his impeccable playoff is any indication of what to expect from the 6-foot, 189-pounder, a breakout season should be on the horizon for Lazar. As previously noted, a 50-goal season seems to be within Lazar's reach if he is on the same development curve as Shinkaruk.
Scout's take: "For his age, Curtis plays like a seasoned veteran," says Rick Jackson, scout for NHL's Central Scouting Service. "He has very good hand-eye coordination and is a strong skater with good lateral movement. He is fearless, taking the puck to the net. He possesses a quick wrist shot that fools many goalies because of the velocity and his pinpoint accuracy. Curtis is unselfish with the puck, finding the open man at the right moment on many occasions. He has very good offensive instincts, putting up good numbers in the role he played on his team last year. Curtis can play tough when needed; I've seen him fight and do very well. That kind of skill and toughness is hard to find in one player."
7. Valeri Nichushkin, centre, Chelyabinsk (Russia-JR) —Nichushkin was originally going to come over to North America to play in the CHL through the import draft this year. But then plans quickly changed as he signed with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL shortly before the import draft.
This decision to sign in the KHL could definitely hurt Nichushkin's draft stock. Teams should and quite likely will be hesitant to use a top-10 draft pick on the 17-year-old because of the risk of him staying in the KHL.
Judging him solely on his talent, Nichushkin is one of the top talents of the 2013 draft class at this point. He has an appealing 6-foot-3, 173-pound frame and possesses rare elite offensive abilities. He has the potential to be the next big Russian superstar.
Scout's take: "He's an elite player when he has the puck, hands are as dominating as his size," says MacInnis. "He has the ability to take over a game. He's a scoring threat whenever he is on the ice. He has a great shot with a lightning quick release, can make your jaw drop off with his up ice rush, and he is a highlight reel. He has the ability to put his team on his back offensively and is a natural sniper. As it stands right now, he has all the tools to become a dominating pro."
Ryan Pulock (WHL)8. Ryan Pulock, defence, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) — Despite only being 17 years old, Pulock was third in scoring by defenceman in the WHL last season. The 6-foot-1, 201-pounder posted an impressive 19 goals and 60 points in 71 games. These outstanding stats are a testament to his offensive pizazz. He makes it look easy, dangling around opponents as if it is business as usual.
Pulock isn't a one-trick pony, though. He holds his own behind his own blueline. His strong and smooth skating abilities and his slick breakout pass allows him to quickly transition the puck out of his own zone. However, that's not to say there isn't work to be done in his own zone. Pulock will definitely need to tighten some defensive screws going forward.
Scout's take: "Pulock is a great point producing defender who loves to create with the puck, regardless of where he is on the ice," says MacLean. "He has powerful legs and spins off pressure very well. He is confident and poised and has good strength to fight off those who can track him down. He has great vision from the point and is an excellent power-play QB. He can play physical and doesn't give up much defensively making him a very appealing blueliner for the 2013 draft."
9. Kerby Rychel, centre, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) — Rychel broke out in the OHL last year, netting 41 goals and 74 points in 68 games with the Spitfires, topping his previous season's point total by 53.
Rychel doesn't appear to be quite as talented as the likes of Mackinnon, Monahan, and Shinkaruk; nevertheless, he brings a lot of valuable intangibles to the table that are coveted by NHL teams. He has great work ethic, leadership qualities, throws his weight around, and isn't afraid to drop the gloves to stick up for a teammate.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, no different from Monahan, Shinkaruk and Pulock, has a late '94 birthdate. Next year will be his third season of major junior hockey. Expectations will be high. Rychel will need to prove he's one step ahead of the snipers heading into their sophomore seasons in order to stay in top-10 contention.
Scout's take: "Rychel is effective due to his highly competitive nature and the fact that he takes solid and direct routes to the net," says Burstyn. "An extremely low maintenance player, Rychel is a quiet leader on and off the ice who exhibits maturity that bevies his age. He is fearless and will bang bodies and work hard for his chances, as he does not shy away from any area of the ice. Well put together, he is difficult to dislodge off the puck as he has made considerable upgrades to his lower-body strength and balance."
robert_hagg (elite prospects)10. Robert Hägg, defence, Modo J20 (SuperElit) — Hägg has distinguished himself as the top blueliner of the 2013 draft crop playing outside of North America.
Hägg is the complete package. The 6-foot-2, 201-pounder can be the best player on the ice at both ends of the rink. He possesses uncanny offensive skills, initiating rushes and showcasing superb patience and composure with the puck on his stick. He also has proven to be a catalyst in his own end, using an active stick and boxing out opponents.
Scout's take: "Hägg has huge offensive upside and the ability to be a cornerstone defenseman at the next level," says MacInnis. "Puck movement and composure on the puck is already at a pro level. The best D-man at the [2012 world under-17 challenge] in ISS' opinion quite a bit, a combination of his composure, vision and all around strength makes him a man amongst boys. On the puck, he plays like a seasoned vet, tremendous panic threshold and never makes bad decisions when pressured."